How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.

Conclusion

Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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553 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • kololo

    I can’t believe in first world country law can protect parasytes and thiefs. How could that happen? Where is justice and why nobody (except victims) seems to care?

    • Bob

      Before you start getting on your high horse & lecturing about the “first world law”, you might want to either turn off the spell check or actually learn the law yourself.

      You know, the same law that protected & continues to protect you & your immigrant family at reduced taxation, increased burden on other taxpayers, & God knows what other benefits.

      Don’t be so quick to condemn others.

      • Jenny

        Well said Bob. Could not agree more.

      • D

        So, you’re ok with squatters staying on your property…(il)legally? I guess you’re ok with it because that’s what YOUR forefathers did, only it was an entire country. And for the record, this fine country, which I proudly serve is based off of immigrants. The very people who started this nation…The first being the savages of Europe who “found” this already inhabited land, learned all they could from natives, then killing, raping, and pillaging, the natives;and throwing them on reservations; and its celebrated as Thanksgiving…smdh. I’m sure you’re of European descent…but how can I make such an assumption about you? And I’m sure Jenny is of European descent too…know your own actual history, before trying to “educate” someone else.

        • MG

          Well said D!!

        • DB

          Well said D!

        • Tom

          Good grief. The worn out old racism canard. Try to think of something original for once–something that is actually true.

          • Kevin

            Ur jus mad, like all racist wyte folks, that this Black man told tha truth about who ur people REALLY are. Personally, I love him for it😁👍🏾✊🏾liars, theives, cannibals, pedophiles, bestiality, mass murder… Such iz ur history. So much for wyte people to b proud of. I understand. Deny all U like. Doesn’t change anything

            • Tom

              “Das’ rayciss’! Waa-waa-waa!”

              Your IQ is a bit low, Kevin.

              • Frankie Bunch

                What black man tells the truth c’mon man .I think that it should be dealt with any means possible. If your on someone’s property illegally then you get whatever is coming to you

            • Yanci

              Kevin no disrespect but if your going to argue or state a statement you need to reeducate yourself on your spelling and don’t try to come back at me with a racist statement because I’m not white I’m Yaqui Indian.

        • hurm

          Yah D way to not know history! If you did, then you would have known that the “native people” were really just the first squatters…

      • Question Everything

        I was renting a trailer to a single mom on its own land with a gambrel garage & a 3 bedrooms. Her father is a raging alcoholic and I told her I did not want him there. She stopped paying rent and when I went there cuz the sheriff said check on the property the door is open. My father pulled in behind my vehicle with a baseball bat in his hand. I told him to put the bat down three times & then proceeded to videotape him afterwards my mother just passed away 3 , 4 months before that. He was yelling & screaming like a lunatic I had to call 911 & he called my mother effing Dead C & effing dead hor to my face! You think squatters have rights ( is bs) the police got there they made me leave. It let him kil my rental, im disabled wow.. your sad

      • Daniel Bush

        What does that mean? Are you condoning squatters?

        • Brenda J Anthony

          I’m really wondering what type of rights squatters really have in the state of California. According to what I know to be a fact….Califorinia does back the rights of squatters.

          • Tom

            They have the right to be legally evicted as opposed to being summarily thrown out. But that is about it.

            I knew one who ran a cord to the vacation home next door and stole their power. When arrested, his bail was $50k. He was a retired attorney squatting in the next house.

      • John Armstrong

        You bleeding liberals… Go hug a tree, or better yet go climb one and claimed that for your own. As a matter of fact, if you trim that tree it’s yours? Right? After all you made improvements. Get a real lawyer and find out what they would do if someone was living in their child’s tree house. After all, we can’t upset the poor slobs. I’m a homeless vet, and I would never think of doing something like that. And, to condone it just means you’re another ACLU puke that thinks that everyone else’s stuff belongs to everyone else. Make America great again

  • Dave ford

    I am cash poor, no money to hire a lawyer to file unlawful detainer

    • Tom

      Make the place so unbearable to be at that the squatters don’t want to be there any more and leave. It is a very effective tactic. There are many ways to do this, you just have to figure out what will work on each particular scumbag without getting yourself in trouble.

      Another approach is to go ahead and break the law in some way that gets them out and then let them try to sue you instead. Most won’t even sue, and you can beat in court a squatter who will.

      As for holdover tenants, you can’t do this with them, because they have paperwork. You have to get the money to pay somehow, by hook or crook, and then steamroll them in court.

    • Barbara Lamb

      A friend of mines husband died the title was was in the man and his sons name but the son is in prison well the fat had a girlfriend of 15 years …the son today her she could stay there well year go bythand she stays there and has very little money but the son says that’s oh
      One day he up and sells her only home she has
      What now.

      • Tom

        What now. She can go live somewhere else.

        A free ride is nice while it lasts. But when it ends, that’s it.

        No one of age is entitled to free housing.

  • Monica

    Daughter moved out at 17. 18 years later ask if her and son can move in. 3 1/2 years later with no lease and no rent can’t get them out. They refused to leave

  • Myles

    I am buying a single family brownstone in Brooklyn NY with no heat, water or electricity. It has a squatter how do I get him out if he wants a absurd amount of money

    • doug stramm

      Kill Him. Or hire me to do the job

      • Palle

        I’m in Sweden and need your services NOW. This horrible psycho bitch is even threatenening my family that lives upstairs in the separate top apartment. I am from a tough life all throu life up until now. My father and uncle got murderd subsequently a few years back and I’ve been to jail.
        My husband has saved me and totally changed my course through giving me a safe environment in his home town and extended normal family.
        I’m now using my experience to give back to all those who are not seen by people like us normally.
        I run charities and social development activities for my own and the neighboring community.
        My past memory of fear and despair is in conflict with my goodwill. Do it or I will

      • Tina

        Right ON! I have a squatter and she won’t get out even though she calls me names and threatens me. I have called the police and they did not do anything. I own the mobile and the land it is on I rent and have a lease. Her name is not on the lease. Mine is. In addition, she is causing damage to the room she is held up in

  • Katydid

    My husband has allowed a tradesman to live with us for over 30 days and we live in a squatter friendly state. He has temporarily moved out thank god. My question is: if he comes back for another 2 weeks will he still have squatter’s rights? In other words, how long does that 30 days protect squatters rights? Is it consecutive or in total etc? I want to protect myself for the future thanks. Note: he has not claimed squatters rights but I want protection in the event he does

  • david sudberry

    help! i recently had a friend ask to rent a room. he said there would be him his girl friend her daughter (she has cerable paulsey and frequent seziures.)and her boyfriend. whom they have watch over her. reluctantly i agreed to rent the garage after i made sure the proper amenities were installed. then two days later him and his girlfriend show up at ten at night begging to stay the night. the girl friend stating there was some creep harrassing her and they had to go. i let them in. i told them 25 $ a day they only been paying around ten$ i had the sheriff come out after i asked them to leave and that he threatened me. sheriff said he couldent make them leave to start eviction process. ???

  • Pamela Howard

    You need contract or money order showing tenants are paying rent for number of months as agreed on contract.

  • P Henry

    I have properties on either side of my home that the owners are deseased and left no will. These properties are in horrible condition with septic sewage spilling on my property. The Texas Evironmental Commission in another town refers the complaint to the county Compliance officer who doesn’t come out or take any action. These properties are deliquint in taxes by 5 yrs. It is taking forever to bring this to the courthouse sale. How can I file some sort of lien to prevent the new owner from continuing with the non existent sewer system?

    • Tom

      Bureaucratic nonfeasance is a serious problem nationwide resulting from several decades of having a thoroughly corrupted DOJ.

      There is no rule of law. Effects of such are noticed locally.

  • Emily

    My father died and I inherited a farm. He allowed someone to live for free on the farm for over 20 years in a mobile home to “keep an eye on the place. ” I am now ready to list the property and have asked the person to move but it has been 6 months and he hasnt moved. Does he have any rights to the land. I had him sign a paper after daddy died saying if I decided to sell he would need to leave. How can I get him to leave.

    • Tom

      You can just give him notice (properly per the jurisdiction you are in of course). If he doesn’t leave by the end of the notice period, then you can sue for eviction.

      If you put the farm up for sale first, then you will have to give him a 90 day notice per Federal Law enacted sometime around 2009. So it might be faster to get him out first, then list the sale.

      Talk to an eviction lawyer. He will tell you exactly what to do.

  • JANELLE ARMSTRONG

    i am a victim of this ridiculous law in the grand state of ca.. my boyfriend and kids went to move into are home we just bought and went to open the door for the first time and there where people living in my home i thought it was a joke little did i know i would have to try and kick these unknown people out of my home A year and 4 months later thousands and thousands of dollars down the drain and we STILL had to make are mortgage payment even tho we where not living there. we became homeless because of this. We just got them evicted this month we lost everything as a mother it is heart breaking to know that we couldn’t provide what my kids needed i almost lost my kids to cps because we where homeless they destroyed a brand new home

    • Steve

      Although, I have countless stories of issues with squatters, low life’s who won’t pay rent, etc., these stories are going to change things, actions will. We all need to quit bitching about it and band together to work towards ways to change these absurd Laws. We might be able to expedite this process by “persuading” some of these squatters to move into some prominent individuals homes such as a state official, commissioners or even a judge’s house and see how long they would be willing to put up with this crap.
      Lets all begin to think of ways to change these laws and share our idea and start making a plan to make a change.

      • Tom

        Trump is cleaning up DOJ. But it will take many years for improvements to reach the bottom rungs of local legislation and law enforcement.

      • Geneva Philpot

        Steve, I am with you we need to let our legislators know the law on squatters in CA is much to liberal. Did you know that after 5 years of living in a home getting mail there and doing any repair will allow the squatter to own the home. Those people facing this with no financial means to fight it or go through the eviction process are the big losers. The squatter om my deceased Niece’s home moved in with her son and 3 days later this nephew was dead of an lethal overdose of metaphatmens (sp). I believe the squatter murdered the nephew not knowing he had any relatives as he was an only child of an only child. The police have and will not do anything and keep telling me it is a civil matter.

  • almot retire mom

    WARING

    My adult son was stressing after he gets a request to leave his rented town house …. he had a one or two tenants that had not paid rent because of the sudden eviction, etc. (he was crying after many failure attempts to resolve issues) .

    Its was almost New Years, and I told him to move into my home for three months – so he could chill and recover. I wasn’t charging rent, and I paid all utilities, and at first
    i was buying food, etc. But 3 months became 6.

    When I got fed up, he informed me said “after living here 30 days, he had renter’s rights and I would have to pay him to evict him.”

    To my surprise my free law advisor accurately predicted my son would get violent towards me. I was utterly sad when this occurred.

  • Sophia russo

    My mom and I rented a home from a private home owner and she Informed us that she was selling the property. Before the property is sold my mom died tragically in a fatal car crash where I had been ejected from the vehicle and my mom sustained fatal I from thw collision with a semi truck. Then the house gets sold to new owner who allows us to sign lease, my boyfriend the I only kne with a job at the time, signs the lease solo. Couple months go by he pays the rent and then the landlord stops coming to pick up payment. Then my boyfriend never speaks to homeowner again. He allowed 2 aquaintences to move in and help with the bills but they take over the property and push my boyfriend out. So now that he vacated,the squatters remain….now what??

    • LS G there and refused to leave

      I have a current situation which the police say is a civil matter. I had a Section 8 tenant with voucher and lease as a single man. He was stabbed to death. I contacted his brother regarding personal property. I changed the locks and now I have this nasty woman that says she is his sister and lives there. She will not leave. What can I do. Paid rent from legal resident and housing expires March 31, 2019. Suggestions please

      • Tom

        Contact the Section 8 people. They will be eager to help get her out and they may prosecute her for stealing government services.

    • LS G there and refused to leave

      I have a current situation which the police say is a civil matter. I had a Section 8 tenant with voucher and lease as a single man. He was stabbed to death. I contacted his brother regarding personal property. I changed the locks and now I have this nasty woman that says she is his sister and lives there. She will not leave. What can I do. Paid rent from legal resident and housing expires March 31, 2019. Suggestions please

      • Tom

        A burglary was clearly committed and the police aren’t doing their job.

        Again, no rule of law.

      • Yeah

        You should’ve just thrown his personal property out. Civil matter means you have to start the process of eviction.

        • Yeah

          The longer you wait, the more the courts will look at it like you’re condoning or allowed her staying there.

  • Yeah

    These people are scammers. Do not believe anything they say. All they want is money. They do this for a living ok. They are liars, con-artists, and your worst enemy. It doesn’t matter who it is. The old saying, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer”, may be good to remember since you already screwed up by letting them too close to you. But know who you’re dealing with is right. Make them suffer and pay as much as you possibly can. Trust me you can. Do your homework the same way they did theirs on you since the first moment they laid eyes on you. Scammers. Be like the pit bulls of the old days. You’re gonna have to be.

  • Mmaphuti

    I ve been living with an old woman when my father still alive.in 2008 my father passed away so in 2012 my mother told the old woman to live the place she said she won’t live the place because my mother didn’t put her there.even now she claim that my father put her there and she won’t live.her husband when he is drunk he calls my mother names I can’t take it anymore I can’t watch my mother suffer because of them pls help me to get rid of her

  • Trina Hoiland

    My brother passed away recently and I was the co-owner on the certificate of title on his mobile home. He had a roommate living with him for a couple of days..He refuses to leave stating it’s his home. What are my legal rights after serving him a hand written notice to vacate and still remains.

  • Trina Hoiland

    My brother passed away recently and I was the co-owner on the certificate of title on his mobile home. He had a roommate living with him for a couple of years. He refuses to leave stating it’s his home. What are my legal rights after serving him a hand written notice to vacate and still remains.

  • Todd

    I just got out of prison and found my brother ex wife staying in the house our parents left us and she wont leave she been there two years what can I do?? She ain’t paid rent property tax just the electricity bill

    • Tom

      Pay the property tax if you own it so that you establish that you are attending to your property. Then hire an eviction attorney and evict.

      If she pays the property taxes, she can eventually own the place through adverse possession. That is why you as owner should pay the property taxes.

  • Daniel E Simmons

    7/11/19

    I live here in Fredericksburg, VA and am getting through the eviction process with a manchild of 25, who apparently has some experience in stealing property rights from me. Went to court Mon. July 8, 2019 the Liberal judge (not sorry if I offend you) took the writ of eviction and DID NOT put a order to prosecute the eviction to the sheriff’s office, Amazing! 20 years ago when Virginia was “RED” state no problem. Wake up people, our sovereign rights are in peril!

  • Pat

    I have a roommate in the next bedroom who has informed me that she is not going to pay rent going forward and there’s nothing I can do about it. One person said to make it as uncomfortable as possible. I’m not able to go through legal fees to it if this person. Besides removing our freezer from the seller that she and only she is using it as my freezer… How can I make things uncomfortable for her besides the freezer?

    • Tom

      Find out what kind of music she hates, and play it.

      Cook food she hates the smell of.

      Get some smelly pets that get #1 and #2, vomit and hair all over her things.

      Let the house get really messy, and make it worse. ‘Accidentally’ spill things on her stuff. Leave a lit cigarette on the edge of her favorite piece of furniture. “Oh, I’m sorry!” If you damage something, refuse to pay. If she sues, you have a countereclaim in the unpaid rent.

      Frequently invite ‘interesting’ guests that will not be welcome in her mind.

      Smoke a lot. Have loud parties or visitors just when you know she wants it quiet.

      Eat her food. Guaranteed to have an effect.

      As you can see, there are many possibilities. You just have to use what she does not like.

    • Tom

      Some things not to do that get landlords in trouble:

      Don’t turn her water off.

      Don’t turn her power or gas off.

      Don’t steal anything. But you can get away with eating her food.

      • Tom

        You can also take the opposite approach, which is to try to find some place that she would rather live at than your place. If she is short on money, a little help with that can make a big difference. This usually works best if one already has had a decent past with the person and can talk to them about things.

  • Amanda

    So what if you’ve been staying in a building and the family member sells the apartments and the building next to it… The new owners come in threes everybody’s rent and evicted us the people who are living in the building which we’ve been turning into a tiny house…renovated it from the ground up… The floors were completely rotted out… I mean I’m not trying to be a freeloading scumbag can’t afford anything else than what I was paying here and I have two children don’t exactly just have the funds to up and find another place

    • Tom

      It is always better to move to a more suitable abode than it is to renovate someone else’s property. It is a guaranteed way to make the property owner furious no matter what you do or how well you do it. If they are not taking care of the property then find another one.

      It sounds like ‘a family member’ got fed up with whatever was in progress at the property and decided they had had enough of it.

      • Amanda Treadway

        It was my fiance’s grandma she wasn’t fed up she was old she’s almost 80 and still working … And trying to keep up with the apartment building…. Which is why she gave us the building next to it so we can help her any of the manly stuff her grandson was going to do to help her but in the end it was rough on her … she gave us the building to renovate so we would never lose our place to live again but one of the conditions of buying the apartments was to buy the building next to it cuz they’re on the same property….

  • Rob

    I relocated from MS to PA about two years ago. I have a property in MS. It is an old house that was on the property when I purchased it. There are no utilities at the house. My brother, without permission, moved into the house. I found out when I went back home. I have no idea how long he had been there. I told him to get out and return the key. The house has mold in the floorboards from a flood years back, and like I said no utilities. Not sure who all has been to south MS in the summertime, but it is HOT!! By reading all of the comments, it seems my deadbeat brother has more rights than I do. Even when I worked my butt off to purchase the property. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Lukkas

      Considering that it’s in such terrible condition anyway… have you considered demolishing the place? That would get him out lol.

      • Rob

        I spoke with a few of my friends in the legal system and have served a 14 day eviction notice. If he isn’t out after that then they will forcibly remove him. Plans are being made to demolish the house now.

  • Jill

    I had a week to week room mate. My lease was over, so I became a month to month. The weekly tenant stopped paying. I gave him a 7 day notice, and he said he’d be out by the date. Part 2. His crazy girlfriend. I told him she 1. Couldn’t move in, she did anyway. She threatened me. The police did nothing. On walk thru day, they wouldn’t let the landlord in. Part 3. Notices came to the door ( I had already moved) they turned utilities on in someone’s name. I get a letter 6 weeks later of my denial for my security deposit and certified letter from court/eviction. I never knew about it, until months later when I was applying for an apartment. It is 18 months. I still can’t get an apartment. Living with family.

    • Tom

      A bad deal. Maybe some closer coordination with the landlord while moving out would have helped prevent the eviction paperwork in your case. If the rent had been coming up short due to the roommate then there was nothing else you could do. And then there is the cost of evicting a roommate on top of that. Gorgeous photo of you!

      • Jill MARI

        I owed nothing. The landlord rep refused to walk thru the apartment, as the squatters threatened to call the police. I was intimidated by these people. The lady moved in with my legal roomate, without my consent. I requested she leave, and gave him appropriate notice. I wound up paying all the rent for the last month. The landlord already had 11/2 month security deposit. I just want to get this eviction off my record. I was never served. The landlord had my new address. They never gave me notice

        • Tom

          If you were never served, you can sue the landlord for that and it seems to me that your suit would be exempt from the statute of limitations since the legal burden of service falls on the landlord and you had no way to know without being served. Usually the statute of limitations is a year on most things having to do with rental contracts, but if you were never legally served then it should not apply.

          The thing to do would be to consult a landlord-tenant attorney and see if you can sue. It will probably cost to pay for the consultation, but if you have a case, then the rest of it should be payable after settlement. The landlord is highly vulnerable in this situation, depending on whether the statute of limitations would apply.

        • Tom

          The police should have been encouraged to visit, and in particular, the landlord rep should have called them to see whether they could be thrown out on the spot for trespassing. If you can, add the intimidation in to your lawsuit and emphasize it as a reason to pile on another $5k against landlord for causing personal distress. If you were never served, the landlord is quite vulnerable.

  • Rick

    Read between the lines of the laws of your county or state.
    In Cleveland Ohio, where I have rentals.
    A house must have water/sewer, power and heat. Windows must work,plumbing must work(toilet etc.)
    BUT, there is no law about doors.None… I politely tell people living there illegally. I’m here to replace the doors. I remove all outside doors (screen and storm to) and leave. 25 yrs of being a landlord. So far works every time.

  • Mary Price

    My parents both died in 2016. Myself & 4 sisters inherited old family farm. mos later we visited farm & noticed someone removed old fence & erected new one & brought in 8 horses. He has now been there 14mos, has caused 5 heirs to split 3/2 as to what to do. 2 say sell to him & 3 say NO he needs leave, until we finish cleaning out place & make decision. He acts as tho he owns, has built a hay shed & uses our 2 barns. The family turmoil is awful & we grew up in a loving family. I am furious & think he shud be made to move, to pay for mental anguish & emotional upset caused the 5 sisters

  • Viv

    I live in California & have squatters living next door for 5 months now. 3 months ago a guy comes to my door saying he just bought the empty home @ auction but there were posessions & 2 dogs there. Paid the squatters $300 to move out & they did. Nobody showed up for a week with 2 dogs tied up inside,SPCA took them away, squatters moved back in & still there. There is an out of control 2 year old there also, he runs through my yard, rings my doorbell & runs @ 9pm, single dad sucks. Neighbor called CPS, kid always running out front unattended, CPS didn’t care. Kid is always goofing off around my cars, etc. What can I do till the squatters leave if they ever do?

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